We have had it reported to us, (and we personally have seen multiple posts in online forums and Facebook groups), that the DWP is or has been engaged in a campaign to encourage recipients of Universal Credit to open or pursue CMS cases against their ex-partners.
A researcher asked the DWP:
I understand that you have engaged a team (either internal or external) who are currently running a telephone campaign where they are contacting separated or divorced parents in receipt of Universal Credit and asking them to open Child Maintenance Service claims.
1. Please confirm whether you have engaged an internal or external team on any such campaign, even if part of a wider campaign
2. Please confirm where the CMS obtained the telephone contact details of these parents in receipt of Universal Credit
3. Please confirm that you have explicit permission to contact these parents for this purpose using the telephone numbers you have obtained
4. Please confirm when this campaign or part campaign started
5. Please confirm the basis for you operating this campaign
6. Please confirm the numbers of parents you have contacted so far
7. Please confirm the total numbers of parents you are targeting with this campaign
The DWP responded to say:
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is not currently engaged in a telephone campaign contacting separated or divorced parents in receipt of Universal Credit asking them to open Child Maintenance Service claims.
However, DWP does advertise the following prompt on the Universal Credit Live and Full Service website which advises customers how to engage on a voluntary basis with Child Maintenance Options Service:
“Help with child maintenance arrangements: You can get help with organising child maintenance payments from ‘child maintenance options’. This is a free and impartial service for parents who live separately“
Another researcher followed up to ask:
I would appreciate it of you would provide the minutes and agenda of all meetings/telephone conversations involving current and former DWP ministers, special advisors, and civil servants, during 2017, where Universal Credit and a telephone campaign was among the subjects under discussion.
For each I would also like the date of the meeting/telephone call, and who was in attendance, as well as any other information that might be held about that meeting/call
The DWP replied to say:
Following a search of our records, I can confirm the Ministerial Private Office holds no record of any correspondence or meetings, with reference to a telephone campaign encouraging Universal Credit recipients to open Child Maintenance claims
We are continuing to research this important topic and will update this article when we have further information or evidence. It is against the principles of the Child Maintenance Service to encourage parents to use them. Indeed it is one of their core principles, and the basis of their charges and fees, that parents are encouraged, wherever possible, to make family based arrangements.
Discovering that the DWP and the CMS are colluding to encourage parents to open CMS cases would be damning for them.
Have you been contacted?
If you’ve been contacted by either the DWP, or the Universal Credit teams and asked about opening a CMS case we’d like to hear from you. Any information you provide will be in strictest confidence. Please contact us urgently.
In a Family Law system designed for combative parents there is no real allowance for the views of children and any understanding of how Family Law ultimately impacts on children most of all.
We speak for the children in Family Law so that, finally, the children have a voice.